Luminous Kashi to Vibrant Varanasi; K. Chandramouli; Indica Books, Varanasi; pp 486; Rs 575.00
THE practice of untouchability and caste discrimination on the basis of birth is a dark blot on the religious culture of India as also on the Hindu society. It is a problem that has been plaguing the society since ages and is an offshoot of a perverted, arbitrary and vested interpretation of Hindu scriptures.
The book under review raises some very pertinent questions: Is the interpolation of some verses in the Hindu scriptures relating to caste discrimination a part of a vilification campaign? Is it a reaction to religious conversion thrown up by the political situation existing in the country? Is it a well-organised and well-orchestrated campaign carried out by vested interests within the country at the behest of international agencies? Is the birth-based caste system in conformity with the Hindu scriptures? Is this malpractice borne out of social, historical or political compulsions?
In order to examine this problem of caste discrimination and untouchability in the context of Hindu scriptures, the author K.V. Paliwal has delved deep into the definition, characteristics and scope of Hindu dharma, the jati and varna system and the social relationships with the so-called shudras.
According to the Rig Veda the meaning of the word dharma is ?the nature of the object?. The word is derived from its root dhri which means ?dharati itidharmah?, i.e. those things through which the world is maintained and protected. Hence, in the Mahabharata, it is mentioned that ?dharma is called dharma because it maintains human values. Dharma maintains the subjects?the people. That one is certainly dharma which has the ability to maintain.? Maharishi Dayanand has offered a very logical, rational and universal definition of dharma that serves as a touchstone. He has said, ?Dharma in spirit means following the directions of God and dispensation of unbiased justice in the interest of all. Dharma means well acquaintance with direct proofs, etc., and since this is stated in the Vedas, this alone is acceptable to all characteristics of dharma men.?
The Hindu dharma has been in existence since the beginning of human creation, and its basic religious scriptures, i.e. Vedas were revealed at that time so that man could lead a discreet life, knowing his duties in life. Rishi and munis wrote many granthas in which they rendered detailed analyses of topics described in the Vedas. Thus it is the Vedas that rendered the most authentic exposition on Hindu dharma. The injunctions of the Vedas are universal and eternal, meant for the welfare of all human beings and are free from any discrimination based on colour, caste, creed, gender or language. The knowledge in the Vedas is comprehensive and complete in all respects, offering solutions to all religious, social, economic, political and spiritual problems.
The Hindu society is based on the varna system and not on birth-based caste system. In fact, the two words?varna and jati or caste have great significance in the social system and both are interrelated. In the context of the varna vyavastha, varna is a short-time and changeable system which denotes an occupation selected by a person according to one'squalities, education, action, temperament, etc.
A person is called a Brahmin for his ?study of the Vedic knowledge, for his complete immersion in the worship of the Lord and for the inculcation of the superior qualities emanating from learning, etc.? The Kshatriyas are persons who are strong and action-oriented and who defend the public. Vaishyas are those skilled in various commercial activities and practices while the Shudras are those who have not been able to attain a high status due to their ignorance.
The author has tried to remove the misconception that the present-day discrimination against the Shudras has been continuing since the time of the Vedas and according to which the entire human race was divided into two groups?the Aryans and the Dasyus and that among the Aryans, the four varnas were recognised upon their quality, action and temperament. The Shastras have enjoined that ?the individual and the community are bound in a feeling of common and complementary dignity and designation?By birth every man is a Shudra; later on through ethical and spiritual improvement, he redevelops as a Brahmin.?
No doubt the book is a treatise on varna vyavastha which is karmana (i.e. in accordance with man'squalities, actions and temperament) and it rightly asserts that every conscious Hindu should play a constructive role in eradication of untouchability and that the ?present governmental reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs in jobs and education is not a permanent solution of the problem because it runs counter to the principle of individual, self-inspired development. It is only a remedy for the time being.?
(Hindu Writers? Forum, 129-B, MIG, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi-110027.)